It's my first week as Kavana's new Rabbinic Fellow, and I want to reach out to you to introduce myself and try to convey just some of my immense excitement for being here working with you
It's my first week as Kavana's new Rabbinic Fellow, and I want to reach out to you to introduce myself and try to convey just some of my immense excitement for being here working with you.
This season feels full of possibility, not only because of today's glorious weather, but because of so many new beginnings: We just moved to Seattle (an exciting return "back West" for us); our daughter Amaryah turned one the very day we arrived and our son Erez Noam turned three exactly one week later; the kids started in their new day care and pre-school (Erez Noam will be at Kavana's Gan this Fall and enjoyed the Kavana Mini-Camp last week, Amaryah will join him in a year); and my wife Pella got a very cool new job the day after we arrived! All of these are exciting developments that have us feeling like Seattle is welcoming us and that this marks the beginning of a new phase of growth and learning for the whole family.
And of course, my new job is practically bursting with possibility. I will be working in several areas, all of them exciting and interesting to me in their own ways, including social justice, the teen program, the Friday night musical service, adult education, spirituality, B'nai Mitzvah, and more yet to be discovered. And it's not just the work but the setting that excites me -- Kavana feels like just the right place for me to be. I love that Kavana is a diverse group of people who come together to connect and take ownership of their Judaism -- this approach speaks to me as someone who draws from many expressions of Judaism and as a former community organizer. And also as a community organizer, I am thrilled that Kavana is about partnership -- between and amongst partners and rabbis and staff. I am truly looking forward to learning and creating and acting and celebrating together with you. And of course, being part of the Jewish Emergent Network Fellowship is thrilling -- learning what makes innovative communities like Kavana tick, together with the other JEN Fellows, speaks to my interest in creativity and change-making in Jewish community. In Kavana and JEN, I feel like I've really won the prize. I became a rabbi to do work just like this with folks just like you.
This week's Torah portion, Pinchas, relates a remarkable story of partnership that led to historic change. Five women -- the daughters of Tzelophchad (if anyone thought our kids' names were a mouthful...!) -- acted boldly together in advocating for their right to inherit their late father's property. They were met with receptivity first by Moses and then by God, who responded by incorporating their innovation into the laws of the Torah. The fact that partnership -- first among the sisters, and ultimately between them and Moses and God -- was integral to this important early step towards greater equality should give us confidence that our partnership model is on the right track and has precedent in our tradition. And it seems like an auspicious time to begin my partnership with you -- to together introduce innovations into the Jewish world, to together transform our own lives and the world around us.
Please feel free to reach out to me (email@example.com) to meet over coffee/tea or for a walk (especially while the weather is like this!) -- one of the things I like best about this work is all the opportunities to get to know people, so I will really welcome the opportunity. We can talk about Kavana, our Jewish journeys, visions for Kavana and the future, and what we might do together. And we're always looking for folks to spend time at parks with on weekends while the kids play, or to celebrate Shabbat with in Queen Anne, so let us know if you're into those things, too.
This configuration rings true to me today. I picture volunteers in my community working shoulder-to-shoulder in the kitchen preparing meals for homeless “tent city” residents or a multigenerational group marching for justice and equality arm-in-arm, like a wall of planks.
In this quiet pause, it's awesome to be able to reflect on the theme of this week's holiday. Thanksgiving isn't celebrated widely in Israel, of course, but it does have a Hebrew name: Chag ha-Hodaya, literally, the Holiday of Gratitude (or thanks or acknowledgement). You might recognize the root word from so many of our Jewish prayers... it's conjugated into forms like "modeh ani" ("I give thanks") or "modim anachnu lach" ("We give thanks to You") or, perhaps most famous of all -- a line repeated during the Hallel service or at a bris -- "hoduladonai ki tov, ki l'olam chasdo" ("Give thanks to Adonai who is good, for God's lovingkindness endures forever.")
Last night, I went to bed with the mixed election results fresh in my mind. This morning, I woke up thinking about a powerful image that appears at the beginning of this week's Torah portion, Parashat Toledot. In last week's reading, Abraham's servant had traveled to find a wife for Isaac, and he had selected Rebecca based on her incredible generosity and compassion (as our Moadon students have learned, she offered water not only to him but also to his camels!). This week, we meet Rebecca again, now pregnant and uncomfortable. She seeks divine intervention, and is told that two nations are struggling in her womb. In the pshat (the simple, plain meaning), this means that she is pregnant with a set of twins. On the level of drash (deeper interpretation), these twins, Jacob and Esau, represent two very different modalities of being, and it is these that are struggling within her.